Hyperlordosis might sound like a scary fancy-pants word, but it simply means that the low back has an exaggerated (hyper) inward curve (lordosis). After reading this blog, you will have a better understanding of whether you should worry about improving hyperlordosis. And if you should, we’ll give you 4 different exercises to get you started.
Factors contributing to hyperlordosis
As with most things in the body, hyperlordosis is rarely caused by one specific issue. Genetics, posture, obesity, lack of exercise, poor core strength, and the presence of other spinal conditions such as kyphosis, discitis, and spondylolisthesis can increase the lordosis in your spine.
Just because you have hyperlordosis and pain doesn’t mean that they’re linked. There’s no current evidence correlating hyperlordosis directly with pain.
But hyperlordosis can affect breathing, mobility, and strength training. Which can then indirectly cause pain and tension.
Hyperlordosis and breathing
Unless the hyperlordosis is caused by a trauma to the spine (car accident etc.) it is often accompanied by an anterior pelvic tilt.
Think of the hips as a bowl of water. In the neutral pelvis position, the bowl is level. In posterior pelvic tilt, the bowl tips backward, spilling the water on your heels. And in the anterior pelvic tilt, the bowl tips forward, spilling the water onto your toes.
A deep anterior pelvic tilt can decrease the effectiveness of your most important breathing muscle: the diaphragm
Which can then lead to sub-optimal gas exchange, reduced trunk stability, and the need for the secondary breathing muscles of the neck and upper chest to do extra work.
As poor gas exchange contributes to poor stress management and anxiety, it also makes you more sensitive to pain. Whether that’s in the low back or somewhere else in the body.
When the secondary breathing muscles have to compensate for the lack of diaphragmatic action, they can also lead to tension headaches, neck pain, and upper back pain.
And then there’s the issue of mobility and strength.
All of your mobility and strength starts with a stable trunk position
Think of the stable trunk as having the hips and the ribs tied together. Looking from the side, your ribs are the top blade of scissors, hips are the bottom blade.
When the hips and the ribs are tied together, the blades of the scissors are together. The aforementioned bowl of water in your pelvis is staying level.
As the pelvis moves into the anterior tilt and the water spills on the toes, the scissors open up. The top blade points 45 degrees to the sky, while the bottom blade points 45 degrees to the ground.
And you’ll lose the stable trunk.
An unstable trunk position limits mobility down the chain
As the body can’t get the stability it needs in the trunk, it’ll find it elsewhere. Usually by creating tightness in the hips, which then affects the knee, which then affects the ankle.
Or going the other way, an unstable trunk limits the scapular mobility, which then affects the shoulder… and on and on.
An unstable trunk reduces the force you can create
Losing the stable trunk means you’re no longer able to create maximum strength in the other joints. You can try this yourself by standing with your pelvis in a deep anterior tilt. Let all that water spill onto your toes.
Now, take a moderately heavy weight and try to press it overhead. Then, bring your hips and ribs in a stable position, think about closing the scissors, or bring the “belt buckle to the belly button”. Aim to keep that position while pressing the same weight overhead.
Which one was easier?
The second one, right? In the second position, you had to contract your glutes and brace the core to maintain a stable trunk. Which then allowed you to press with more ease.
So, should you spend time on improving hyperlordosis?
It depends. Can you easily move between the different spine and pelvic positions? Can you lock in the closed scissor position when strength training or working on mobility?
If you answered yes to all the above, then the answer is probably no. You do not need to worry about fixing your hyperlordosis.
But if you’ve forgotten how to move your spine and pelvis, struggle to stay in that closed scissor position during training, or just hate how the hyperlordosis makes you look in swim trunks or bikini, keep reading.
Exercises for improving hyperlordosis
Improving hyperlordosis starts with the breath. More specifically, the exhale.
Exhaling for longer brings the ribs closer to the hips, allowing the obliques to kick in.
As your pelvis moves away from a deep anterior pelvic tilt, the glutes and hamstrings are easier to engage. Which then makes it more effective to work on strengthening that stable closed scissor position.
Here are a few of our favorite exercises that incorporate the breath in improving hyperlordosis.
Gain Pelvic Control
If you’re stuck in a deep hyperlordosis this one’s a great exercise to help you discover the end range of your spinal flexion. And when you can appreciate the whole extension/flexion range of your spine, it’s then easier to find the middle of both extremes.
The goal is to get the serratus anterior and obliques to do the work.
Key Coaching Cues
To relax the rectus abdominis (six-pack abs), keep your gaze down and avoid crunching the sternum. Let breathing do the work instead of squeezing your abs.
Start with both hands down, and get good at it. To progress from here, add the arm lifts. Rushing this progression often leads to overly engaged abs. Which then makes this whole exercise pointless.
Hooklying Low Reach
This one is all about hamstrings and pelvic position which are both crucial for improving hip mobility. This simple exercise is extremely powerful, especially for anyone who has been struggling with their hips and or back. Hip mobility is part of hyperlordosis. We love this exercise so much that we also included it in our Hip Challenge.
Key coaching cues
Don’t tuck your chin and make sure the object in between your legs is not too big. We want your knees inline with your hips.
Unlock Your Spine
We love our whole Spine class, but If you’ve been stuck in the posture of hyperlordosis a long time, Spinal CARS (aka Cat Cow) allows you to rediscover and explore the full ranges of your spine. It’s not uncommon to “forget” how the spine actually moves in 360 degrees.
Key coaching cues
Lock your hips in place to the movement you’re getting is focused on the spine, instead of the hips coming along for the ride.
If you’ve never done Spine CARS, start in a heel-sitting position. Move to tall kneeling and eventually to standing as your awareness of the spine increase.
Shift Center Of Mass Back
A great exercise to using the reach and heel elevation to shift our ribcage and pelvis back under us.
Key coaching cues
Reach the hands towards the ceiling to learn how to bring the rib cage back without crunching the sternum down.
To make the most out of this exercise, stay tall. Focus on relaxing the knees forward and dropping down as vertical as possible.
Hyperlordosis in itself isn’t “bad”
There’s no such thing as a single perfect spine or pelvic position. Instead, the perfect spine position is dynamic and allows fluid movement. And just because you have hyperlordosis and pain doesn’t mean that they’re linked.
That being said, a hyperlordotic back can have a negative effect on mobility, strength, and breathing if it’s the dominant position in all you do.
We’ve got plenty of classes to get you started working towards a more mobile spine.
Start today for free with our Elite Video Membership.
Sometimes an issue might need a personalized approach. If so, we recommend working directly with Ian.